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Economic Development Research Group Blog

Using New Data to Improve Transit Networks

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The transportation ecosystem is changing rapidly. Individuals have new transportation options, and nationwide trends show transit ridership in decline . New technologies, such as automated vehicles, are expected to continue to reshape mobility in the future. In this environment, transit system owners and operators are seeking to adapt their network design and services. Improved data availability and new processing methods can identify ways to improve transit service. Compared to rail systems, bus networks can be altered at relatively low cost to accommodate changes in demand. Bus network revisions include large-scale overhauls, such as recent redesigns in Houston and Columbus , as well as incremental approaches to bus network change, such as route additions, deletions, and realignments. To make these changes, planners need to understand how the current system is used and where there is potential for improvement. In recent years, contactless smart card-based automatic fare collection (AFC) systems have become...
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Project Update - Economic Gems: Hidden in Plain Site


A couple of weeks ago, Steve Landau and I visited Columbus to start up a new project with the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. Over the next few months, EDR Group will be investigating, quantifying, and (perhaps most importantly!) describing the myriad ways in which the Columbus airport system contributes to the economy of the city, region, and state. One of the most significant and rewarding parts of these types of studies is uncovering what might be called “economic gems” hidden in plain sight. Most people only ever experience airports from the perspective of commercial passenger aviation. But really there is so much more going on. You have air cargo operations making sure time-sensitive goods get in and out, general aviation allowing local businesses to be more efficient that they otherwise would be, and oftentimes clustering of related businesses that benefit from airport access on nearby real estate—just to name a...
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New Data and Techniques for Transportation Economists

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Highway link speed data from vehicle GPS probes has become the standard for performance measurement, available free to state DOTs through the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS). This data can add value across transportation planning and policy-making. At EDR Group, we think it extends the potential for informed economic analysis. For Missouri DOT, EDR Group conducted benefit-cost and economic impact analysis of an Incident Management System (IMS) on the rural sections of I-70 and I-44. To evaluate the impact of MoDOT’s proposed IMS, we needed to understand the pattern and costs of incidents along the rural highways. To do so, we used vehicle speed data from HERE. We queried 5 years of speed records at 15-minute intervals for every link on rural I-70 and I-44: approximately 143 million rows of data in total. That’s a lot of data!  Figure 1 Schematic of incident identification. Using heuristics and a...
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Planning for Rapid Technological Change in Transportation and Mobility Services

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Hardly a day passes without websites, newspapers, and TV news trumpeting our entry into an era of “self-driving cars” and “smart everything.” More and more, our everyday lives are digitally connected and facilitated, enabling us to shop from our phones, have up-to-the-minute travel information, and instantly share information with anyone, anywhere. As the digitization of our society grows and computing power becomes more portable and affordable, we continue to rush headlong into a future of both technological promise and societal challenges. Within this context of technology-enabled and driven innovations and opportunities, the nation’s transportation needs are similarly rapidly evolving. The advances in information technologies and business processes are enabling new forms of integrated transportation services that span multiple modes providing both passenger and freight services. At the same time, planners and researchers need to recognize that the rapid pace of technological change and digital information systems in transportation is occurring...
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